1. The case originated in an application (no. 81553/12) against the Republic of Azerbaijan lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by an Azerbaijani national, Mr Hilal Alif oglu Mammadov (Hilal Əlif oğlu Məmmədov - “the applicant”), on 19 November 2012.
2. The applicant was represented by Mr K. Bagirov, a lawyer practising in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr Ç. Asgarov.
3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that he had been ill-treated during his arrest by the police and that the domestic authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation in this respect. He also alleged that his detention had been unlawful because there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed a criminal offence. Moreover, the domestic authorities had failed to justify his detention pending trial. He further complained that the effective exercise of his right of petition had been hindered by the domestic authorities.
4. On 4 November 2014 the application was communicated to the Government. In addition, third-party comments were received from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who exercised his right to intervene in the proceedings and submitted written comments (Article 36 § 3 of the Convention and Rule 44 § 2).
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicant was born in 1959 and lives in Baku.
6. The applicant is a mathematician and physicist who worked at the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Azerbaijan from 1981 to 1993. He then became involved in the political and social life of the country. He also worked as editor-in-chief of the Talishi Sedo, a bilingual Azerbaijani-Talish newspaper, and was chairman of the Talish Cultural Centre. He has been chairman of the Committee for Rehabilitation of Detainees since 2009.
A. The applicant’s arrest and alleged ill-treatment by the police
1. The applicant’s version of events
7. At around noon on 21 June 2012, when the applicant was on his way home, six or seven plain-clothes police officers assaulted him near the Neftchilar metro station in Baku. Without showing their official identification, they restrained the applicant’s arms and began to hit him below the knees. They kicked him in the lower part of his right ribcage and then slipped narcotic substances into his right trouser pocket. They handcuffed him and dragged him into their car, where they continued to beat him. In the car they started to insult him, making comments about his ethnic origin, and threatened him on account of a video recording he had uploaded to the YouTube online video platform.
8. The police officers did not inform the applicant of the reasons for his arrest. Indeed, the applicant did not even realise that he had been arrested by the police until he was taken to the Narcotics Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (“the NDMIA”).
9. A search of the applicant was conducted at the NDMIA. According to the record (no. 7/32-130 dated 21 June 2012) of operational measures and the seizure of physical evidence (əməliyyat tədbirinin keçirilməsi və maddi sübutun götürülməsi barədə protokol) drawn up by a police investigator, the search was carried out from 1.45 to 2 p.m. on 21 June 2012 in the presence of the applicant, three police officers and two attesting witnesses. It appears from the record that the applicant was not represented by a lawyer. During the search, 5 grams of a substance similar to heroin was found in his right trouser pocket.
10. At 2 p.m. on 21 June 2012 a police investigator drew up a record of the applicant’s arrest.
11. On the same day a search was carried out in the applicant’s flat without a court order. According to the search record, it was conducted from 6.10 to 7.55 p.m. on 21 June 2012 in the presence of the applicant, six police officers and two attesting witnesses. It appears from the record that the applicant was not represented by a lawyer and the two attesting witnesses were the same persons who had previously participated in the search at the NDMIA. During the search, narcotic substances similar to heroin were found. The applicant made a written comment in the record that the narcotic substances did not belong to him.
12. According to the applicant, on 21 and 22 June 2012 he was detained in handcuffs and was deprived of food and water.